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Barcelona, Arsenal progress to Champions League Quarter-final



Two quick-fire goals for Catalan giants FC Barcelona set the tone for a 3-1 win over Italian side Napoli on Tuesday night.

The Xavi-tutored side qualified for the Quaterfinals knocking the Partenopei out of a European competition after a 1-1 first-leg draw for the third time since 2020.

Xavi Hernández’s youngsters took centre stage during a rapid start, as Lamine Yamal and Fermín López both fired off-target after getting into promising positions, while Pau Cubarsí made a superb challenge to prevent Victor Osimhen from racing through. Cubarsí then played a brilliant ball to release Fermín, although the midfielder couldn’t find the target with his lofted effort.

The third time proved to be the charm for the 20-year-old, who applied a composed finish to Raphinha’s cutback on the quarter-hour mark.

The hosts’ lead was doubled within two minutes as Yamal started a blistering break and played the ball through for Raphinha, whose effort struck the post and saw the ball bounce into João Cancelo’s path for the full-back to convert.

That left Napoli desperately needing a response, which arrived on the half-hour mark as Amir Rrahmani latched onto Matteo Politano’s pass with a pinpoint finish.

There was a further blow that left Ronald Araújo with a cut above his eye, although Marc-André ter Stegen stretched to deny Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header to ensure that Barça navigated the rest of the half unscathed.

Francesco Calzona’s men gave Barça another warning two minutes into the second period when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia found space on the edge of the box, but the Georgian sent his effort curling agonisingly wide.

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While Raphinha forced Alex Meret into an awkward save, Napoli were putting the hosts under pressure, which resulted in Xavi turning to the experience of Sergi Roberto and Oriol Romeu on the hour mark.

The moments of uncertainty continued, though, as André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s shot was blocked following an unconvincing header from Cancelo, while Yamal had a goal disallowed for offside at the other end.

After Jesper Lindstrøm headed wide from a massive opportunity for the visitors, Barcelona finally got the breathing space they craved when İlkay Gündoğan and Roberto teamed up to leave Robert Lewandowski with a simple finish.

That confirmed that the Blaugrana would reach the UCL quarter-final for the first time since the 2019/20 campaign in addition to continuing their nine-game unbeaten run.

They also ended Napoli’s six-game unbeaten streak, their longest so far this season.

In the nights other fixture, Arsenal advanced after a dramatic 4-2 penalty shootout win against Porto at the Emirates Stadium in North London.

The visitors actually started the first half on the front foot, recording more possession than their opponents, as Evanilson in particular was causing problems.

The striker turned his defender before firing towards goal, forcing David Raya to palm away to safety. Before that, Bukayo Saka forced Diogo Costa into a save after cutting inside, but Arsenal’s breakthrough came on the other flank through Leandro Trossard.

The Belgian neatly tucked his third UCL goal of the season into the bottom corner after a perfectly-weighted pass from Martin Ødegaard.

Though somewhat less imposing after HT, Arsenal had the ball in the net again when Ødegaard beautifully chipped Costa, only for it to be ruled out for a foul by Kai Havertz on Pepe beforehand.

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Moments later, Francisco Conceição forced Raya into a decent save on the counter attack, before Jakub Kiwior produced a brilliant block on the rebound.

As the clock ticked closer to FT, Mikel Arteta threw on Gabriel Jesus for Jorginho, clearly showing his intentions of putting the tie to bed in normal time.

The Brazilian was immediately involved, forcing a smart save from Costa from close range, but 1-0 was how the regular 90’ ended.

There was not much goalmouth action in the first half of ET, with Porto substitute Mehdi Taremi recording the only notable shot, firing wide of Raya’s post.

The second half was just as cagey, as Saka’s effort was blocked in a wonderful Arsenal passing move, before Galeno’s long-range strike deflected into Raya’s arms.

Inevitably, the game finished all square on aggregate, and would be decided by penalties. Arsenal had scored all 13 penalties they had taken this season before tonight, including four in their Community Shield triumph, and Ødegaard stepped up first.

The captain led by example, sending Costa the wrong way, but Pepê duly responded for Porto. And Havertz netted too, before Wendell’s penalty was tipped onto the post by Raya for send the Emirates Stadium into raptures.

Saka then scored to give Arsenal a two-goal advantage, before Marko Grujić made it 3-2. Declan Rice converted to make it ‘match point’, and Galeno stepped up knowing he had to score. Raya saved again after guessing correctly with a feline dive to his left, sending the home crowd wild as the Gunners won their first competitive penalty shootout at the Emirates, after heartbreak against Sporting in the UEFA Europa League last season.

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Arteta’s men has now progressed to the quarter-final of the competition for the first time since 2009-10, ending a run of seven consecutive last 16 eliminations in the competition.

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